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Chinese Fintech Giant Ant Hires New General Counsel

April 15, 2020, 6:25 PM

Ant Financial Services Group, a Chinese financial technology company formerly known as Alipay, has added Jonathan Zhou as general counsel.

Zhou is a founding partner of Fangda Partners, a Shanghai-based law firm that he started in 1994 and gradually grew into one of the most profitable in mainland China. Fangda, which has roughly 600 lawyers, has been a longtime legal adviser to Ant, which has been touted as the world’s top fintech company with a $150 billion valuation.

Fangda worked with Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz and Sidley Austin in representing Ant on its sale of a 33% equity stake in 2018 to Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. The deal gave Alibaba direct ownership of Ant, which uses the cloud platform provides financial services like mobile and online payment processing, money-market funds, credit ratings, consumer loans, and wealth management.

At Ant, Zhou will be responsible for the company’s legal and compliance functions, according to a statement Wednesday announcing his hire. He will report to Leiming Chen, a former Simpson Thacher & Bartlett partner in Hong Kong who joined Ant as general counsel in 2016. Chen, now a senior vice president at Ant, oversees the company’s legal, compliance, and anti-money laundering functions.

Chen said in a statement that Zhou’s addition will strengthen Ant’s legal and compliance capabilities. Zhou’s will help Ant “continue to facilitate the development of our global business in compliance with relevant laws and regulations and enable us to better serve consumers and small and micro businesses across the world,” Chen said.

Bloomberg Law reported last year on Ant’s purchase of London-based payments company WorldFirst UK Ltd., the first major overseas acquisition by Ant after U.S. regulators blocked its $880 million bid for Dallas-based money transfer service MoneyGram International Inc. In early March, Ant bought a minority stake in Swedish fintech company Klarna Bank AB.

Fintech Legal Recruits

Ant isn’t the only fintech enterprise hiring in-house legal help during a turbulent period for global financial markets caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Capital Markets Gateway Inc., a fintech company that provides workflow and analytics services to capital markets professionals, brought on Goodwin Procter corporate counsel Tamira Goldberg this month as general counsel in Seattle. CMG, founded in 2015, raised $7.5 million in financing last year.
  • Carver Edison Technology LLC, a New York-based fintech company specializing in employee stock purchase plans, announced March 26 its hire of former WisdomTree Investments Inc. chief legal officer Gregory Barton as COO and general counsel. Carver Edison, started in 2016, now has nine employees after raising $7.6 million in funding late last year.
  • Upgrade Inc., a San Francisco-based startup consumer credit platform, recently welcomed aboard Holland & Knight structured finance partner Carrie Friesen-Meyers as a deputy general counsel and O’Melveny & Myers counsel Adam Ajlouni as senior corporate counsel. Upgrade was launched in 2016 by former Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton senior associate Renaud Laplanche, who co-founded the LendingClub Corp. but stepped down that year as CEO of the fintech pioneer.

To contact the reporter on this story: Brian Baxter in New York at bbaxter@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com

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